Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are more likely to report poorer self-assessed health, and have higher rates of hospitalisation and higher prevalence rates for many health conditions than other Australians. The burden of disease suffered by Indigenous Australians is estimated to be two-and-a-half times greater than the burden of disease in the total Australian population. Long-term health conditions responsible for much of the ill-health experienced by Indigenous people include circulatory diseases, diabetes, respiratory diseases, musculoskeletal conditions, kidney disease, and eye and ear problems. For most of these conditions, Indigenous Australians experience an earlier onset of disease than other Australians.
The Indigenous population is disadvantaged across a range of socioeconomic dimensions that affect health outcomes, such as income, employment, educational attainment and home ownership (see Chapters 2, 3 and 4). In addition, Indigenous people are often more exposed to certain health risks such as smoking, poor nutrition, alcohol misuse, overcrowded living conditions and violence (see Chapter 8).
This chapter outlines the national data from a number of different health data collections to provide an overview of the health status of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The chapter begins by providing information on the self-assessed health of Indigenous Australians, and the relationship between health status and various socio-demographic factors.
The chapter then provides an overview of the main causes of ill-health using self-reported prevalence data for selected health conditions, visits to general practitioners and admissions to hospitals. For the first time, a detailed section is included with information on the social and emotional wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Finally, specific causes of ill-health are examined in more detail, including circulatory system diseases, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, cancer, injury, respiratory diseases, communicable diseases, arthritis and other musculoskeletal conditions, eye and vision problems, ear and hearing problems, and oral health.
The quality and completeness of data vary between different sources and across jurisdictions. In many of the administrative data sources used in this chapter, such as the hospitals data, Indigenous people are under-identified and the rates of illness reported are therefore likely to be underestimates of the true rates of illness in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.